Almond cake with pears poached in red wine
A luxurious prep-ahead dessert.
For the poached pears
Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Lightly butter and line a 20cm/8in loose-bottomed sandwich tin.
Beat the butter with a wooden spoon or in a food processor to soften. Add 130g/4½oz sugar gradually, beating constantly, until soft and light. Add the eggs and almond extract and beat well. Fold in the ground almonds and flour.
Tip the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes. Test if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre; if it comes out clean the cake is ready. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
Turn the oven temperature up to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Meanwhile, for the poached pears, place a large saucepan over a medium heat. Pour in the wine and 300ml/10fl oz water. Stir in the sugar, lemon rind and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for 1 minute.
Keeping the stalks on the pears, peel and remove the eye from the base of each pear. Place the pears in the wine syrup and poach for 30 minutes, or until tender to the point of a knife.
To make the cake decoration, put the orange rind in a saucepan of water over a high heat. Bring to the boil, change the water and bring back to the boil. Meanwhile, make a sugar syrup by heating 50g/1¾oz sugar and 100ml/3½fl oz water in a saucepan. Place the rind in the sugar syrup and boil for 20 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.
To make the nut brittle for the cake, put the remaining 100g/3½oz sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and slowly melt until it caramelises. Stir in the nuts, then pour the mixture onto baking paper to cool. Chop up into brittle.
Decorate the cake with the orange strips and nut brittle and serve with the poached pears and crème fraîche.